ThorSport Racing looking to shine in 2012

Johnny Sauter and Matt Crafton headline ThorSport Racing's efforts to win the
2012 NCWTS championship, but lookout for rookie Dakoda Armstrong.
“When you step back and look at how far this team has come, from working on the race truck in a parking lot outside the track in our first races, to now, when we’re winning multiple races in a season and coming in second in the championship standings two times with two different drivers, you can see the strength of this organization across the board and how much we have improved and accomplished.” - Matt Crafton

From Sandusky, Ohio to NASCAR's center stage, ThorSport Racing is chiseling a new path in racing. Having stepped outside the box from day one, ThorSport's race shop is based in Ohio, roughly 550 miles outside of NASCAR's racehub. Duke and Rhonda Thorson are proving that a team can break with tradition and still be successful.

The 2012 season is a year of change within ThorSport - one of the very few teams able to say that they are expanding and adding trucks and personnel. Now a three-truck stable, drivers Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter welcome rookie Dakoda Armstrong to the team. In addition, ThorSport is now fielding an ARCA car for 9-time champion Frank Kimmel.

During the offseason, ThorSport created a stir when they announced they were making the move to Toyota. Fans protested openly on the team's Facebook wall that the team was abandoning their history with Chevrolet and switching to Toyota, which in NASCAR terms is seen as an outsider merely because the brand originated in Japan.

In fact, Toyota has 10 manufacturing facilities in the United States and employs more then 198,000 workers. Toyota Racing Development (TRD) is based out of Salisbury, N.C. and Costa Mesa, Calif., and provides technology, data and engineering support to their race teams. 

Since the announcement came in early December, the ThorSport race shop has been hard at work preparing the Toyota Tundras for testing and the upcoming season. After two tests at Rockingham Speedway, the team and engineers are blown away at the results.

David Pepper, Vice President of Competition for ThorSport said, "I know there has been a lot of talk as to how the conversion to Toyota is coming along, but we've been working day and night here at ThorSport preparing ourselves for 2012.  I feel very confident after the amount of time we've spent between the wind tunnel, our fabrication shops both here in Ohio and in North Carolina, we'll be very comfortable when they drop the green flags in both ARCA and Truck Series in Daytona."

"I can't say enough about what Toyota has come to the table with in two short months.  They have definitely helped in every way possible in getting us up to speed in the Toyota camp; and the cooperation between Red Horse Racing and Kyle Busch Motorsports, fellow Toyota teams, has been outstanding.  We're looking forward to getting Toyota into Victory Lane, hopefully multiple times, this year."

Regardless of what they're driving, the true measure of the team is behind the wheel.

The drivers:

Johnny Sauter missed out on the championship by a mere 6 points last season, providing him and his team with ample motivation heading into this season. Known for his fiery spirit, Sauter is a proven competitor in the series and knows how to get the job done. A veteran of all three of NASCAR’s elite touring series, Sauter has called ThorSport Racing home since 2009.

"To me, being competitive is about people,” said Sauter. “People prepare the best equipment, and I've been lucky to have a team that believes in each other for a few years now. We've shown that as a whole, ThorSport Racing is here to stay.  Now with three teams, we have the people in place to make a serious run for the whole thing. On the 13 team, we're stronger than we've ever been. With Joe [Shear Jr.], my longtime crew chief, and seasoned crew around me, we're looking to produce as much as we can in the results category."

Competing for Rookie of the Year for ThorSport is newcomer Dakoda Armstrong. At the young age of 20, Armstrong may be new to NASCAR, but is an experienced racer. From karts to USAC to ARCA, Armstrong already finds himself with the longest-tenured team in truck history.

"Even though I've raced 7 races with ThorSport in 2011, I'm still the newbie to the team,” said Armstrong. “Some guys might be intimidated by having such great veterans like Johnny and Matt zipping up the same team's firesuit as me. But it has been nothing but helpful so far in learning the ropes of the Truck Series. This year, it's all about Rookie of the Year, and I've got a lot of stiff competition to go up against. I'm excited to race a Toyota Tundra - they come to the table with a lot of resources and engineering support that has helped us all. I'm also excited that I have two guys who can continue to teach me as I grow - and as I get more competitive this year. After all, who else can say they learned from two of the best in the business?"

And then there's the senior member of the team, the old guy himself, Matt Crafton. At 35 years old, Crafton has spent the past 12 years with ThorSport Racing. In any sport that is an amazing amount of time, but in NASCAR the average driver's contract lasts for 3-4 years, which makes Crafton's tenure with the team even more remarkable. 

“I think it is absolutely possible that this is the year for ThorSport Racing to bring home the championship,” Crafton says with confidence. “We’ve been close a few times, but I don’t think we’ve ever been more capable than we are now. The one thing I can say about ThorSport Racing is that we have gotten incrementally better every single year that I’ve been with the team. We just keep getting better, so there’s no question that we can be the number one team this year, either in the number of wins or winning the championship. Switching to Toyota is going to be a big piece of that puzzle, because they give us a lot of tools to make this race team even better.”

In a series where even champions struggle for sponsorship and in a sport where there are more drivers than rides, ThorSports seems to have found the formula for longevity. Like Sauter says, it's the people. 
ThorSport Racing looking to shine in 2012 ThorSport Racing looking to shine in 2012 Reviewed by Unknown on Wednesday, February 08, 2012 Rating: 5